ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Cole McDonald and Miles Reed led Hawaii's ground game and an expected passing mismatch failed to materialize as the Rainbow Warriors beat New Mexico 45-31 on Saturday.
Behind quarterback McDonald, Hawaii (5-3, 2-2 Mountain West Conference) entered the game with the country's third-leading passing attack with 359 yards per game. New Mexico is ranked 130th and last in NCAA FBS statistics, allowing 348 yards per game.
While McDonald certainly was effective through the air, completing 17 passes for 237 yards that included a touchdown, it was the Rainbow Warriors ground game that came up big with 255 yards. McDonald led the way, gaining a career-best 140 yards with two TD runs. Reed added 97 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"It's an added element we haven't used a whole lot this year, but I thought, you saw his speed," Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said. "I thought their plan early on was not to let us throw it. I had a hunch we might have to run the ball a little more."
In his first game of the season, Kumoku Noa had four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown for the Rainbow Warriors.
Ahmari Davis was a bright light for New Mexico (2-6, 0-4), gaining a career-high 200 yards rushing with two scores. Jordan Kress added 100 yards receiving and a TD.
But the New Mexico passing attack didn't catch fire until the second half, when Tevaka Tuioti threw for 190 of his 293 yards.
The rout began early as the Lobos went three-and-out, followed by a 76-yard McDonald touchdown run.
"That was a great read by him," Rolovich said. "He's got those long levers and he just gobbles up ground."
It was a stunning way to start the game, New Mexico coach Bob Davie said.
"We got shocked right off the bat," he said. "He runs the zone read on the second play of the game and goes (76) yards. In some ways, the biggest, fastest guy on the field. Wow."
New Mexico responded with a field goal in its next possession, but Hawaii got touchdowns on its four possessions before halftime to lead 35-3. The Rainbow Warriors started that run on an interception return for a score by linebacker Solomon Matautia.
"Matautia, he's done that a bunch in his career," Rolovich said. "He's made a lot of big plays. We have a lot of linebackers a lot of people talk about and he's kind of the one that doesn't get mentioned a whole lot. But he's been a major contributor since I've gotten this job."
The Lobos rallied for 21 straight points late in the fourth quarter after trailing 38-10.
"That's my fault for pulling the starters too soon," Rolovich said. "I felt like some guys deserved to play. I felt like the game was in our hands. Credit to New Mexico to keep battling. They made some plays and they showed some character to keep balling."
Hawaii: The win puts the Rainbow Warriors in line for a potential bowl game, needing just one more victory to clinch six wins and eligibility.
New Mexico: The Lobos teeter on the brink of a third-consecutive losing season after reaching bowls following the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Hawaii is at home Saturday against Fresno State in a game that will set up the winner for a run at the conference's West Division championship.
Cellar-dwelling New Mexico plays at Nevada on Saturday.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25